God is Everywhere or Nowhere
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”
These are Obi Wan Kenobi’s words to Anakin Skywalker at the end of Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. As a lifelong admirer of Master Kenobi, it pains me to spurn his teaching, but as I reflected on last week’s Gospel and Pastor Jim’s message, the following reality came to mind: God is everywhere, or God is nowhere.
Growing up, I met people who fell across the entire spectrum of faith. I met people who truly believed God was in all things - alive, active, and working. I met people who didn’t believe in God at all. And I met people who “believed in a higher power” but didn’t believe that power really had any impact or sway on our daily lives.
As I explored my own faith, I began asking questions about where God exists in our lives:
Does God exist in church?
I learned the answer is “yes.” At least, it is supposed to be “yes.” But in church, I learned that God exists outside of church.
Does God exist only to Christians?
I learned the answer is “no,” for two reasons. First, our God is the same as the God worshiped by followers of Judiasm and Islam. Second, as Christians we are called to evangelize, to share the love of Christ with others.
The more questions I asked, the more it became increasingly clear that either God is everywhere, or God is nowhere. Drawing the line anywhere else is arbitrary.
For example, does God stop working in our lives at the level of “God, please heal me, for I am sick” or “God, please give me the grace to forgive my friend”? Or is the cutoff at “God, please let there be a parking spot close to the entrance”?
We can draw the line anywhere we want, but that’s the point: We’ve drawn that line, not God. To God, nowhere is off limits.
I don’t mean to imply that the availability of parking spaces at Giant - or lack thereof - is a result of divine intervention. I don’t believe we are meant to analyze every occurrence for the hand of God.
But I do believe God can work anywhere, in anything, through anyone. I believe God can and does work wherever and whenever God needs to do work. I also believe the place God works most often - and thus, where we should seek God most - is within the workings of our heart.
It’s a small, quiet, deeply personal space for God to work. It’s the space between the pianist’s finger and the keys; the space between the guitarist’s fingers and the strings.
Are those not the spaces where music is made?
Here I am tempted to say, “Music is meant to be heard!” It would be a good way to transition to talking about practicing faith through service and community. But that’s not what I want to say.
Because music isn’t meant to be heard. Music is heard. It simply is. When strings are plucked, they vibrate. When keys are pressed, the hammer strikes. And when we hear music, we listen. We get closer. We come together.
I believe this is what Pastor Jim meant when he called our church and our community “strangely welcoming.” The work God is doing through the Church on the Avenue is like good music. It radiates and captivates. It welcomes and rejoices.
Last Sunday I officially joined the Church on the Avenue. That journey started one evening last summer when a pop-up string quartet began playing on the steps of the church. My wife and I sat down with our ice cream to listen, and it was sitting there, captivated by the music, that I bumped into Jim.
Was God working through the music? Through Jim? Through my wife, who suggested we go on a walk that evening?
I believe God, like the music itself, was everywhere.